Sitting Too Long Can Be Bad For Your Heart

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You may be surprised to hear that sitting for long hours may be bad for your heart.

Yes, recent research has shown that the longer the hours you log in front of your computer, the greater are your chances of developing a heart attack and other health problems.

Here, I shall only talk about how the heart is affected, but keep an eye out for my post on how sitting can affect your health in general.

A reputed medical journal called the Annals of Internal Medicine published an article in January 2015 which seems to have been overlooked by many. The author, Aviroop Biswas and team looked at how a sedentary lifestyle affected the heart, diabetes and cancer.

They performed a detailed analysis of 47 clinical studies that had assessed sedentary behavior and its effect on one’s health. In particular, each hour of sitting can increase your chance of developing heart disease by 14%.

‘Sitting Is As Bad As Smoking’

Researchers from the Mayo Clinic in the United States have gone so far as to say that sitting has the same effects on the heart as smoking.

The World Health Organisation equates sitting for one hour to smoking 2 cigarettes.

In other words, you may be a non smoker, but you may have a heart of a smoker if your job involves prolonged sitting.

Sitting And Your Heart

So how does sitting for long hours affect your heart?

Well, it is a little bit of a ‘vicious cycle’, if you wish to call it that.

Sitting for long hours at a desk for example leads to weight gain. Obesity is a known risk factor in the development of heart disease.

In addition to this, obesity is closely linked to diabetes. Those with diabetes may find it difficult to regulate their blood sugar levels adequately. Uncontrolled diabetes can lead to a multitude of health problems, one of which is heart disease.

As diabetes gets worse and you put on more weight, you develop problems with your  joints, your eyes and other vital systems. All these reduce your ability to exercise if you wished to start it.

The end result of lack of exercise? More of a sedentary lifestyle, and a greater risk of heart disease!

So there you have it – sitting for too long increases your risk of having a heart attack.

Some Staggering Statistics

So how bad is prolonged sitting for our heart and our health? Here are some staggering stats.

In one study, women who were inactive and sat for a period of over 6 hours a day were 94% more likely to die during the study period compared to those who were physically active and sat for less that 3 hours a day.

Men who sit for over 6 hours a day are 48% more likely to die compared to those who stand often.

In another study, those who sat in front of their television for more that 4 hours a day had a staggering 125% increased risk of heart related events such as chest pain or a heart attack.

I am sure parents must be worried about their children after seeing these numbers, given our current generation spends most of their time in front of their laptop, tablet or smartphone!

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An interesting study conducted in the USA found that the average American spends over 7.7 hours sitting a day. This includes their time in front of a desk, sitting in their car (to and from work) and sitting at home on the couch.

When you sit for long hours, your extra calories get converted to body fat and your weight can increase. However, when you stand, you can burn 30% more calories. This can help you lose weight.

It Doesn’t Matter If You Exercise

I won’t delve on this area much, but one thing that worried me (and should worry you) is that if your job involves sitting for prolonged periods of time, then even exercising regularly cannot negate the effects of sitting on the heart.

Its logical, isn’t it? How is just 30 minutes of exercise a day going to take away the bad effects of sitting for 10 to 12 hours a day?

Unlikely, right?

This subject is a little controversial, and some believe that if you are already physically fit and take up a job that involves sitting a lot, then you may not experience the bad effects of sitting.

However active you are, make sure you take a break from your sedentary routine from time to time. Combine this with an exercise routine and you should find yourself healthier a lot sooner.

What Can I Do?

To put it to you straight, get off the couch and get moving!

Researchers have made suggestions for those with desk jobs. One group suggests standing or moving for at least 3 minutes every 30 minutes at work.

Make sure you take the stairs if you need to see someone at work.

taking stairs good for your heart

Get a phone call? Stand up, walk to another room and remain standing when talking.

Watching a marathon run of your favorite TV show? Get up time and again, or watch a part of it standing up.

Take a short walk on your lunch break. If you have a packed lunch, walk to the canteen with it rather than eat it at your desk.

Use the WalkApp – a free app that gives you reminders time and again to get up from your desk and take a short walk.

Move Every Hour, And You Can.....

1. Reduce your risk of stroke by 27%

2. Reduce your risk of colon cancer by 25%

3. Reduce your risk of breast cancer by 21%

4. Reduce your risk of developing high blood pressure by 50%

5. Reduce your risk of developing type 2 diabetes by 30%

So there you have it. Just a few simple steps that can you can adopt that can keep your heart healthy when your job cannot.

Recommended Solution

I have personally found using the Fitbit has coaxed me to walk when I can so that I can get my 10000 steps a day. Their app tracks your regular activity, your sleep patterns, your body weight and a number of other parameter.

You can view a selection of Fitbits on Amazon here.

I will be posting a review on the Fitbit soon here.

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Dr Vivek Baliga B

Dr Vivek Baliga B

Consultant Internal Medicine at Baliga Diagnostics Pvt Ltd
Dr Baliga is a consultant in Internal Medicine with an interest in diabetes and cardiovascular disease. He received his training in the United Kingdom where he completed his post graduate training and his doctorate. He then completed his MBA from University of Phoenix, USA. He has completed the post graduate program in Cardiology from Johns Hopkins University and participated in the Advanced Certificate Course in Diabetes from the Cleveland Clinic, USA. He is the managing partner of Baliga Diagnostics, Bangalore. He is also the founder of HeartSense and is a keen advocate of patient empowerment, having written almost every article on this website and more. In his spare time, he enjoys running and spending time with his son. Find Dr Vivek Baliga on LinkedIn here - http://heartsense.in/linkedin.
Dr Vivek Baliga B
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